Grace to you!
In today’s reflection, drawing from the Lord’s message in Luke 6:39-45, I share what I consider three ideas for effective, credible witnessing to Christ. They include honest self-examination, producing fruits of righteousness, and speaking words that flow from grace.
True and honest self-examination.The good witness of the Lord is one who is thoroughly self-aware. The person listens to the Lord and intentionally examines himself or herself so as to constantly align to the core values of the Lord’s mission. This self-examination would help us to pay attention to how to improve ourselves and be less judgmental of others. The more judgmental we are of others may mean we are not seriously paying attention to our own weaknesses. Often, we tend to focus on the faults of others while giving ourselves a pass for our own misdeeds.
The Lord asks us: “Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me take out the speck thatis in your eye,’ when you yourself do not see the log that is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take out the speck that is in your brother’s eye” (Lk 6:41-42).”
Producing fruits of righteousness.Sometimes, we tend to believe that how we live our lives matters less than what we say. Actually, true credibility isn’t just a matter of what we say or preach. Rather our entire person, words, nonverbals plus actions, reveal so much about who we are. You can be sure that people’s actions, especially when they are in their relaxed, unguarded mood, reveal so much about what is happening inside. If the inside is deeply rooted in God’s Word, if the inside of us is truly renewed and pure, our actions would be consistent with those holy qualities.
Saint Paul reminds us that anyone led by the Spirit of God, that is, a person converted from within and transformed by the Holy Spirit, necessarily produces fruits of righteousness (see Gal 5:22-23). Those fruits are virtuous qualities or skills such as “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control” (Gal 5:22-23).So, if you want to know what is inside of you and to what extent your heart has been transformed by the Lord, see if your behavior is consistent with these qualities.
Also, in addition to these fruits are others which flow from the authentic life of Christ. It is being able to draw others to Christ through our lifestyle. When people can see us, hear us, observe our actions, and give glory to God because of us (Mt 5:16), then that is a sign of living the life of Christ. Our lives bear fruit if they draw others to the Lord.
Gracious Words.The Lord says: “…for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks” (Lk 6:45). What we say reveals what is locked deep in our hearts. Some say, it doesn’t matter what we say. What matters is whether we mean it or not. Actually, for me, I believe what we say matters whether we mean it or not.
Why would a child of God say something that does not glorify God while knowing he or she doesn’t mean it? Why tell lies or use foul words when we know we don’t mean it? It actually leaves a bad taste to do so. Doesn’t it?
Moreover, we forget that the words we speak are the extension of ourselves. Our words carry with them some aspects of our thoughts. They convey our deep thoughts in different ways. We may give excuses about how little they represent us. Yet, those excuses are simply evading the reality that manifests itself from our unconscious. Our words reveal us. Scripture says, “the expression of a thought discloses the cultivation of a man’s mind” (Sir 27:6). The best way to know a person is through what they say, write, and do. Those are the keys to getting to the hidden mind. Those are all we have got to assess anyone. Only God sees the inside and we are not God.
Hence, the credible witness of the Lord is the one whose words and actions are consistent with their claimed encounter with the Lord. This is the message the Lord wants us to bear in mind today.
Praying that the Good Lord will give us the grace to speak and act in ways that manifest what we believe as those born anew in Christ. I also pray with Saint Paul that we may“be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord our labor is not in vain” (1 Cor 15:58). Amen.
God love you. God bless you.
Fr. Maurice Emelu
[8thSunday Ordinary Time: Sir 27:4-7; 1 Cor 15:54-57; Lk 6:39-45]
Grace to you!
You walk past a classmate or someone you know from childhood. The person looks younger and well nourished. Perhaps you work hard to be in shape and the person doesn’t. Here the person is looking like what you would’ve dreamed for yourself. You wonder: What is the secret?
From time to time, we ask this sort of question. We see a senior citizen who looks like we would love to look when we are aging. We ask, what is the secret?
Borderline, everyone wants to look younger and refreshed. Everyone wants to be like a leafy greenish garden. Everyone wants to blossom wherever they are, wherever they are planted. Anti-aging industries exploit this desire of ours. For good or for bad, they do.
God’s Word in Scripture has an incredible message for us today. It is delivered in a way that leaves us with an either-or-situation. It leaves us with a choice to make, a life-long commitment to consider. It proposes the secret of fruitiness, and spiritual blossoming. It offers the answer to lasting happiness as well as its opposite.
Prophet Jeremiah, announcing the word of God, declares it in a way that may be shocking to our modern sensitivities. Yet he doesn’t leave us to second guess concerning the meaning of the challenge.
He places absolute trust in people for our happiness and overall blessings as putting ourselves in the way of a cause (Jer 17:5). In other words, it is setting ourselves up for a colossal disappointment and failure.
One may quibble about how daring is the claim of the prophet. Or how archaic it may sound. Just like some laugh out loud concerning Jesus’ model of messiahship—the scandal of the cross and God’s forsakenness. Yet we know through life experiences that no one would ignore the reality of human slipperiness.
The issue isn’t only about the question of the variable quality of human reliability. It’s also a question of the unpredictability of human nature as a temporal being, as it is about how uncertain is the future. You may believe that your dad, mom, spouse, friend or relative, who has all the resources, would set you up on a road to incredible success. Such is naively presumptuous. Even if they mean well, they don’t have control over the future. One unforeseen change in their life could alter everything. Not to talk of how frail human beings can be and how many times their promises are disappointing. We tend to over promise and under perform.
Contrast this with the proposal of the prophet: “Blessed is the man (person) who trusts in the Lord, whose trust is the Lord. He (the person) is like a tree planted by water, that sends out its roots by the stream, and does not fear when heat comes, for its leaves remain green, and is not anxious in the year of drought, for it does not cease to bear fruit” (Jer 17:7-8).
Such a person shares a common quality with the poor (Lk 6:20), in spirit, as the Gospel of Matthew specifies (Mt 5:3); whose hope, confidence is the Lord.
I love the metaphor of a tree planted by the water that sends its roots by the stream. In their commentary on this text, Barclay M. Newman Jr. and Philip C. Stine (2003), suggest that the stream could be better understood as a canal (p.403). You do not need to travel far to see how trees planted by the canal or aqueduct blossom. They have enough water to get rooted, flourish and produce plenty.
This biblical message corelates to the promise in Psalm 1. The Psalmist talks about the incredible blessings of trusting in the Lord, delighting in God’s law, and meditating on it. In other words, the person is walking in the light of God’s word and promises. Such a person, the Psalmist says, is “like a tree planted by streams of water, that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers” (Ps 1:1-3).
Saint Thomas Aquinas was spot on when he identified this stream of water with the grace of God which reaches us in Christ (Aquinas, Commentary on Psalm 1). It is the Spirit of the Christ. As the Lord Jesus speaking of himself declares: “Out of his heart shall flow rivers of living water” (Jn 7:38-39).
The Lord Jesus, from whom this “rivers of living water flows”, offers us an uncommon path to flourish. The plan mapped for us contrasts with the ways we tend to imagine success. As usual, the Lord offers a revolutionary and yet absolutely true and reliable blueprint for blessedness. Blessings are tied to God’s kingdom and enduring value. Lack of blessings isn’t in being materially poor, or unpopular or rejected by people. It is much more. (Read the message in Luke 6:20-26). Ultimately, the Lord sheds light on the blessing of anchorage in God and blessings rooted in God’s reign and grace.
Trusting in God is being solidly rooted in the canal of grace. It is being guaranteed of true happiness and joy and peace and blessing. People change. Life changes. Our physical health and body may give way. Friends and family may flounder. The Lord never fails. God’s grace abides.
Blessed is anyone who trusts in the Lord. Trust in the Lord is our flourishing.
May God gives us the grace of being rooted in Divine Word and promises. Amen.
God love you. God bless you.
Fr. Maurice Emelu
[6th Sunday Ordinary Time C: Jer 17:5-8; I Cor 15:12, 16-20; Lk 6:17, 20-26]
Grace to you!
Today’s reflection, which is a continuation of our thoughts from the sampled readings of Genesis, focuses on the tendency to play a blame game when we falter. I offer a suggestion on how to confront our demons head on and find answers and healing.
Did you notice that in our lives, more often than not, when things go wrong, we tend to look outside to see who is the cause? We look to person A or person B, situation A or situation B. It is easier to blame others than to blame ourselves.
We tend to judge others more harshly than we judge ourselves. Actually, many times, by judging others, we find excuses for our own indiscretions. It makes us feel good about ourselves. This proclivity is not unique to us as individuals. It was one of the first responses of our first parents Adam and Eve when they were confronted by the Lord after they committed Original Sin. It’s a natural human tendency.
After Adam and Eve violated God’s command not to eat of the fruit of the knowledge of good and evil, their nakedness became evident to them. And when God takes the stage to call them to responsibility beginning with the man (Adam) to whom the Lord expressly gave the command, the man blamed the woman. Perhaps, he indirectly blamed God who gave him the woman. The woman blamed the serpent. So, the circle goes.
The Lord asked a simple question: “Have you eaten of the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?” The man said, “The woman whom thou gavest to be with me, she gave me fruit of the tree, and I ate.” Then the LordGod said to the woman, “What is this that you have done?” The woman said, “The serpent beguiled me, and I ate.” (Gn 3:11-13).
Blame game. We forget that true self-discovery and true recovery happens when we dare tell ourselves the truth about ourselves. We notice this during the sacrament of reconciliation, Confession. Contrition, that is true sorrow for ours sins, is required for a good spiritual healing and restoration. No one who truly understands what making amends is goes to confession blaming other people. No one who wants to receive grace and mercy goes to God blaming others.
We come to God asking for mercy for ourselves and for others. We know that the Lord is everywhere and knows us through and through. The Lord knows each situation through and through just like the Lord’s Holy Presence was everywhere in the garden of Eden whether Adam and Eve knew it or not. The Lord sees. The Lord knows. Scripture says, even before we were molded in our mom’s womb, the Lord knows everything through and through (Ps 139).
Let’s face it. “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rm 3:23). Christian understanding of human nature is such that we acknowledge the reality of human frailty. We believe that the consequences of Original Sin affect all of humankind. No one is utterly good. No one is holy. No one is perfect except God (see Mk 10:18; Lev 19:2; I pet 1:16).
Also, God is all merciful. The Lord welcomes our repentant heart, our contrite spirit (Ps 51:17). In fact, in relating with us, the Lord is full of kindness and compassion (Ps 103:8, 145:8). The Lord is “merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness” (Ex 34:6). The same way the Lord had pity on the crowd who was starving as to miraculously feed them (Mk 8:1-10), the Lord has pity on us when we are spiritually starving.
Hence, approach the Lord not hiding yourself or finding excuses for your failings. Approach God in humility asking for mercy and grace. You will receive grace in abundance, and healing too. Amen.
God love you.
Fr. Maurice Emelu
[Saturday Week 5 Ordinary Time: Gn 3:9-24; Mk 8:1-10]
Grace to you!
In today’s reflection, I share some inspiring words on how you, as an individual, are blessed to be Christ to others.
Sarah, not her real name, opened her door one morning after a knock at the door. She stood face to face with a young man who was not of her race. At first, she was afraid. But the man’s gentle smile and calming voice was reassuring. Handing her a basket full of food, he told her it was all from their church. We thought you may need it, he said.
No sooner had she thanked the man and went in to put the food down than the man vanished into thin air. She looked through the window to see from the direction the man came but couldn’t find a trace. The food came at the right time because she had no food for her and her three children for that day. She stills believes it was an angel.
Imagine yourself at that very moment when you’re in the worst situation of your life. Imagine the time when you needed a savior. Imagine when it seems the world around you has crumbled. Or the time your family is struggling, your marriage is crumbling, your friends have abandoned you, your health is deteriorating, and you are struggling to make ends meet. Imagine that time.
Every person has their moments. Everyone has a time when they’re seriously under the weather.
Years back, following the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem by the Babylonian King (587 or 586 BCE), Judah in particular was crushed. They hit bottom. The Babylonian captivity had done a grave wound to the psyche of the people. They needed a savior and restoration.
Amidst that hopeless situation, God always finds a way to send a savior. Many years later, the Lord inspired Nehemiah, an official (he was first the cupbearer) of King Artaxerxes of Persia, alongside Ezra the priest, to be God’s special instrument to rebuild Judah and restore the community. The memoirs of Ezra and Nehemiah as recorded in the Books of Ezra and Nehemiah tell the story of God’s saving grace. Nehemiah chapter 8, describes the tears of joy, I suppose, the people had when they finally united in the temple to read the Torah and celebrate their restoration.
God finds one, or two, or a few who would be anointed to bring the saving grace to others. Wouldn’t it be an honor to be one of those?
When the Lord, the Savior, shows up in Galilea and in Nazareth as the writer of the Gospel of Luke describes it (Lk 4:14-19), he embodies the Old Testament prophesy of Isaiah (61:1-2) that speaks directly to the mission of the Savior. The Lord is anointed specifically for the mission: to bring the good news to the poor, liberty to captives, sight to the blind, freedom for the oppressed, and to proclaim the year acceptable to the Lord. Jesus, the Christ, fulfills this mission and is in fact this Good News of God to you and to me and to all.
You may say, but he came over two thousand years ago and has returned to the Father. What about now? Well, the Lord lives on. He lives on and continues to carry on the same mission. He carried it through that man who brought food and hope to the starving woman and her babies.
The Lord lives on in his body, the Church. For those born anew in this body through baptism, and those who keep the organs of spiritual vitality alive in their soul through faith and life of grace, the Lord continues to live on. The Lord lives on in you as one born anew in the Water and the Spirit.
The Lord who lives on in you as a person and in his Church as the family of God, gifts each one for that beautiful mission of being Christ to others. Baptized into this one body of Christ, we drink of one spirit (1 Cor 12:13) and are to live as Christ to others.
This is one of the most fascinating things about being born anew in the Lord. The Lord makes you and me his special messengers to carry on the mission of liberty, freedom and hope for the poor and to many. He gifts us with incredible gifts, as 1 Corinthians 12:12-30 describes. We are sent and equipped from above to become another Christ wherever we find themselves. Your gifts and mine are part of the same body and are worth sharing and worth celebrating. No room for pitting one against another.
What is it the Lord has given you? What favors have you received? What charisms do you find in this body? Use those to be Christ to others. Remember, you are given that inspiration, that idea, that message, that vision, that grace of healing, that material wealth, that intelligence, that discernment, etc., so as to make your family, your community, your workplace, wherever you find yourself, and with whom you relate, a pleasant, joyful and fulfilling experience.
Be the Christ people would see and give glory to the heavenly Father. Praying for the grace to do so. Amen
God love you. God bless you.
Fr. Maurice Emelu
[Neh 8:2-4a, 5-6, 8-10; Cor 12:12-30 or 12:12-14, 27; Lk 1:1-4:4:14-21]
Grace to you!
You had an inspiration. It was simple and calming. Yet its demand was not what you wanted to do after all. Deep within you, it seems right to do. The result would positively impact lives. It was the first voice within you, the voice of well-formed conscience.
Then comes another voice. It is loud. It aligns with your ego. It is built off of give and take. It seems fair to you. Though you weren’t sure if it springs from true love or charity. It gives you alternative reasons why you shouldn’t follow through with the first voice. It weighs this and weighs that…. It highlights complications that would arise if you followed the first voice. It instills fear and doubt. It shows you all the negatives; hardly, showing the positives. It is a one-sided loud story.
You were swayed. You listened to that second voice. Days or months or years later, you realize you made a terrible mistake. You didn’t listen to the simple invitation of God to follow the right line of action. You realize, “I blew it.” It would cost you a lot to do it over. Yet, be sure that when you realize you made a terrible choice, it is God’s grace inviting you for an incredible rebuilding and do-over. God can rebuild you. Trust God. Walk with God.
Many times, we blow an opportunity because we do not listen to that first voice of God inviting us to a direction that the Lord wants. We read that voice during our prayerful reflection on God’s Word in Scripture. It speaks to us during Public Worship. It ministers in our conscience when we are alone, or out and about in our daily lives.
Because that first voice is gentle and simple, we tend to ignore it. We, like Prophet Elijah, think that God would have to be in the thundering wind and speak in a loud and magical voice. Yet God was found in the quiet (1 Kings 19:11-13); the quiet of our soul where God speaks with that gentle voice, “My child follow this way. Follow me.” Great are those who pay attention and follow that first voice. They do incredibly great. That is one of the secrets of greatness—Listen to the first voice.
Today, we celebrate the life and witness of the Apostle, Saint Andrew. He was the brother of Saint Peter and always mentioned fourth on the list of the apostles. Not much was written in Scripture about him except his call (Mt 4:18-20; Lk 5:11; Mk 1:17-18); his name as one of the twelve apostles (Mt 10:2-4); the role he played during the feeding of the five thousand when he pointed to Jesus that there is a boy who has five loaves and two fish (Jn 6:8-9); and the fact that he was a disciple of John the Baptist and followed Jesus at the Baptist’s testimony (Jn 1:35-40).
Yet from the scanty story, one could infer how he was a person who listened to that first voice of God calling. When the Lord walked by the sea of Galilea and invited him and Peter to follow him, Scripture says, they left everything and followed the Lord (Mt 4:18-20).
How refreshing it is to read such a story of unreserved faith and discipleship. Saint Andrew listened to the first voice of God calling him. He is a man of faith.
Leaving everything and following the Lord isn’t an easy thing to do. It’s like giving the Lord all you are and all you have. It is total surrender to the will of God in your life. It is a true testimony of spiritual greatness.
In our life, how do we leave what we must in order for the Lord to lead us? Most of all, could we leave our comfort zone and step into the deep, of faith life?
Remember that first voice in your life, each day, each week, each month, etc. Follow that voice of conscience that springs from the Lord’s inspiration to do good and to be a blessing unto others and a source of inspiration. The more you follow that voice, the greater you grow in your spiritual life, and in blessings too.
Praying that we open our eyes to see God’s plan and purposes in our everyday life. Amen.
God love you. God bless you.
[November 30, Feast of Saint Andrew: Rm 10:9-18; Mt 4:18-22]
A friend invited me to be with the family as their dad passes. “No one dies alone” is a precious way of accompaniment for the dying.
For the dying, it is the reassurance that their loved ones would never leave them alone at the most decisive stage of their earthly journey. For the loved ones of the dying, it is a sober moment of tears, of sadness and, sometimes, of intense reflection on the meaning of life.
I watched the family grapple with this inescapable reality that dad would be gone and never return. He passed calmly after receiving the anointing of the sick with the apostolic blessing. Our faith tells us about the great grace of justification that can come from this wonderful sacrament. It’s incredible spiritual healing too.
As I drove home, I was reminded of the reality that every beginning in time has an end. I was reminded of my own end. I wondered off in a sort of imaginative daydreaming. I imagined who will be at my bedside. What my passing would be like. What would be my spiritual state at that moment when the Lord decides to take me home….
Those thoughts reminded me of the end, the last things according to our faith tradition—death, judgement, heaven or hell. The Church does not ignore to remind us of these facts. In reality, the Lord Jesus would often include the last things in his great teachings.
As believers, we cannot fully live the life of the redeemed unless we think seriously about the life to come. The resurrection of Our Lord and Savior reassures us of our own resurrection too. Our birth into this life and in the Lord in baptism, is a journey unto our birth into heaven, in the bosom of the Father.
For Christians, we are looking forward to what Saint Paul calls, “the upward call of God in Christ” (Phil 3:14).
In the Gospel of Mark (13:24-32), the Lord, speaking to the people toward the end of his life on earth, reminds them of their own end. He equally tells them about his Second Coming. In that conversation, he sheds more light on the prophesy of Daniel concerning the Second Coming (see Dn 7:13, 12:2-3). He speaks of the great tribulation, the shocking events, the catastrophic phenomenon, the coming of the Son of Man, and judgment (Mk 13:24-27).
He makes a prophesy which isn’t so clear to many and has been misunderstood by many too. He says: “So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that he is near, at the very gates. Truly, I say to you, this generation will not pass away before all these things take place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away. But of that day or that hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father” (Mk 13:29-32).
The great preacher of the fifth century, Saint John Chrysostom, who was the archbishop of Constantinople, in his Homilies 76 and 77 on Matthew 24:16-18 and 32-33 respectively, explained that two events are discussed here by the Lord. He was of the view that when the Lord says “this generation will not pass away before all these things take place”, two meanings are referred to here. First is the immediate generation of the Lord and refers to the event of the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem which happened in AD 70. The Lord’s word came to pass, as it always does.
The second meaning of “this generation” Saint Chrysostom suggests, refers to the new generation born of Christ. It is a generation not as a result of birth in time but by “religious service and practice” as hinted in the Psalms, “Such is the generation of those who seek the Lord” (Ps 24:6) (Hom. 77).
While the Second Coming of Our Lord is a fait accompli, in our lives we live in such a way that our own end will be in the Lord. Christian life reminds us that the last things are for real. Someday we will die. Then will come judgment. Then heaven or hell. It isn’t one choice—heaven. There are two—heaven or hell.
Praying for the grace to be ready when the Lord chooses to call me home. Amen
God love you. God bless you.
Fr. Maurice Emelu
[33rdSunday Year B: Dn 12:1-3; Heb 10:11-14,18; Mk 13:24-32]
Grace to you!
I’m ecstatic to read God’s word in the Gospel of Luke 10:21. “In that same hour Jesus rejoiced in the Holy Spirit and said: ‘I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to infants; Yes, Father, for such was your gracious will.’” (Lk 10:21)
It warmed my heart to realize Jesus is actually excited when someone understands or grasps the gift of his revelation.
So you know, the Greek word used to describe the joy the Lord felt is egalliasato. It has a sense of someone who is excited and full of exultation and joy for seeing a loved one, such as a child, win.
Imagine you going to watch your child in kindergarten or high school, or even college, play his or her first baseball for the school. Imagine the kind of excitement you’ll have if your child hits a home run which decides the game. It’s comparable, in its highest form, to the Joy Jesus felt.
Or the excitement of watching your humbling child, whom you thought would never make it through college, graduate in flying colors. I would love for you to think about that very moment and that kind of joy. It isn’t even close to what Jesus felt.
Did you also notice that in expressing his Joy, the Holy Spirit and God the Father were referenced too? “Jesus rejoiced in the Holy Spirit and said: “I thank you, Father…” Thus, it is a joy that is complete, a joy which has three divine persons’ participation, a Trinitarian Joy.
Imagine that the Joy Jesus feels is the Trinitarian joy for you and me. God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit share in the joy when we come to believe in Jesus as Lord. It reminds me of the parable of the lost sheep and lost coin in the Gospel of Luke 15, when Jesus tells us that there is great joy in heaven when a person welcomes the grace of conversion.
Think about this: God is excited when we discover He is God, when we have faith in Him, when His revelation is clearer to us. There is joy when we know Jesus as the truth, our hope and salvation. There is joy when we participate in the work of God, and our names are written in the Book of Life.
Isn’t this a wonderful thing to be aware that God is excited about the believer? This should stir in our heart sentiments of gratitude. Gratitude to God who has given us the grace to relate with Him as a friend and a brother in Christ. Our hearts should be filled with joy when we connect the dots of divine conversation and be part of the work of bearing witness to Christ.
We ask the Good Lord to open our hearts to see more and more; connect more and more with the life He has given through Christ. May God fill our hearts with joy and may our joy be complete. Amen.
God love you. God bless you.
Fr. Maurice Emelu
[Saturday Week 26 Ordinary Time: Job 42:1-3,5-6, 12-17; Luke 10:17-24]
Fr. Maurice Emelu, Ph.D.
Father Maurice provides a daily blog of reflections based on the bible readings of the day from the Catholic liturgical calendar. You will find these reflections helpful for your spiritual growth, inspiration and developing your own thoughts. It may also be helpful for ministers in preparing their sermons for liturgical celebrations.